Image by drakegoodman via FlickrRecently I was talking to my wife about death. We were discussing what type of funeral we wanted, whether we wanted to be cremated or buried, where we wanted our remains to be placed, and some other disturbing details of death.
As we were talking I started laughing.
It was probably a nervous laughter. But the thought of me lying in a casket and that being the end of my own importance and everything that I think is important seemed like a joke.
Now I love life as much as anyone, I think. I also have a very healthy fear of death, like most people. But that image of myself in the funeral parlor reinforced my present beliefs on life.
Some may think that focusing on oneself is normal and that spending our days wrapped up in our selves is human nature. Others may see this selfism or selfishness as a type of spiritual sickness. I happen to think that this meism is just a matter of taking too narrow a focus on life.
Unfortunately, from my experience, this narrow focus on self is often quite painful and can lead to many mental and relational problems.
But if we take a few moments to contemplate our own deaths, it can bring us quickly back into reality. A few moments thinking about how, like a firefly flashing about on a warm summer's night, our lives are very short in time will appropriately rock our world.
We like to think we own this or that, or even that we are so special. But death teaches us that we own nothing and that, like all of life, we share the death experience.
The thought of our own mortality can blow our minds and hearts open to where they need to be. Once we see that what we value is essentially an ever changing 'dream' of life then it is a bit easier to let go in the present.
Really, the hardest thing about death is also the hardest thing about life. That 'hard thing' is the ability to let go. It is the grasping and the wanting for ourselves that often makes life so painful. It is the focus on ourselves, as if we were permanent and not an evolving being, that makes life so difficult sometimes. So too, I suspect, that it will be psychologically very painful for us at death if we don't find a way to let go in our hearts and our minds.
So as we take a few moments to contemplate death, a message begins to emerge.
The message of death is to let go of life and start living now. If we survey everything we see around us, we can quickly come to the conclusion that none of it will be there for us in our death. So if all of this has no lasting value then it has no lasting value. Life is a type of elaborate dream that emerges from consciousness. There is nothing substantial or solid in any of it.
Life just is. Love, Let Go, and Live. That is what contemplating death can teach us.